Free Trade, Off-Shoring, and Immigration

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Free Trade, Off-Shoring, and Immigration

We’re all aware that we live in an increasingly technical world. We make unconscious assumptions about our technology and take for granted its remarkable sophistication. For the most part, we’ve become jaded in the face of such seemingly miraculous accomplishments as wireless Internet, mobile phones, and having the knowledge of the entire world at our fingertips 24 hours a day.

But where are all these “modern miracles” coming from?

The answer is: They come from people who design, build, and operate them. And those people have to be increasingly well-educated and well-trained.

America’s booming productivity is fueled by giving ever-more-powerful tools to increasingly skilled personnel. Low-skilled Americans are limited to the lowest ranks of the service occupations. Yet, there is a growing shortage of employees with the right skills to keep our highly technical economy firing on all cylinders.

That’s one big reason Microsoft recently announced its plans to open a software development center in Vancouver, according to a report in Computerworld.1 Increasingly, punitive immigration laws in the U.S. are encouraging companies like Microsoft to establish outposts in Canada and other nations that are friendlier to highly-educated workers from abroad.

Microsoft is not alone in trying to get the U.S. Congress to lift the quotas on the number of so-called H-1B visas for temporary workers here. As it stands, the demand for those visas is so far out of line with quotas that each time they are made available, the entire supply disappears within hours. High technology companies in the U.S. are increasingly frustrated by policies that threaten their competitiveness; but so far, lawmakers have been unable to act to further U.S. business interests.

On the contrary, as it stands today, Canada has no limit on the number of skilled workers who can enter the country for high-tech jobs. It uses a simple metric that evaluates a worker’s education and language abilities, along with his work experience. Well-qualified people get in. Period.

While it is clear that the U.S. needs to open its borders to the skilled workers who can help keep our high-tech position in the world, that does not necessarily mean that it is a bad thing for U.S. companies to position some of their resources abroad. A job at Microsoft in Canada doesn’t really mean one job less for an American. In a global economy, that’s not how things work.

David Stromis the president of the Minnesota Free Market Institute and former president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, one of the largest and most successful state-based taxpayer advocacy organizations in the country...

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